I really really love Parelli.
I got up at 5am to get ready and on the road to Steepleview. It would be an hour's drive and I was pretty sure it would take a while to get the trailer hooked up and Royal loaded up. I was right: I got to the farm a little after 6 and headed out just before 7. I figured out a neat little trick to line up the ball and hitch, so that didn't take too long. Royal was still skeptical of the trailer, but loaded fairly well. We were on our way, and luckily for both of us, the roads were fairly quiet. Sweetie the truck chugged along with the new trailer and we spent a lot of time on the freeway and one long county road.
We arrived at Steepleview around 8 and I had to leave Royal in the trailer so I could find the check-in tent. After getting my number and course maps, I got Royal out of the trailer and let him move around. Then I had to tie him to the trailer so I could walk my first course, Starter Novice. This course consisted of fences up to 18" in height, with no unusual obstacles (banks, ditches, water), so I figured Royal would have a good time of it. I got back to the trailer, saddled the Fuzz up, and headed to the warm-up area. We were fifth on the course, and once the previous rider finished, trotted out. The first fence was a red-white-and-black stadium cross-rail with a judge in a big hat sitting not too far away. Royal was not too sure of the judges' hat, but walked over the jump. Then it was a series of logs and tiny benches that he made small work of before turning up the bank to another stadium jump. We tried to canter the turn, and the ground evidently was a lot slipperier than I thought as both of Royal's hind legs slipped to the left. He immediately caught himself and we kept going, hopping over another log and the first three jumps in reverse without a hitch. I was worried about the slip, as a similar thing happened to Gogo of Eventing-A-Gogo! in 2009. She injured tendons in both hind legs, and she still has not fully recovered. Fortunately for Royal and me, his legs were cool and tight after our run.
We went back to the trailer, hung out, and then I had to walk my Beginner Novice course. I knew I had made a mistake signing up for it while walking the course. I had been so focused on the unusual obstacles that I neglected to think about the height and width of the jumps. Royal can jump up to 4' easily, but I've only gone to 2'6" a few times and am not as confident as I should be. And these were robust BN fences. I knew I would be doing a lot of mane grabbing during this course. I had a question about how to enter the water for fence 4, so I walked back up to the check-in booth. There I saw a sign with all the SN entries and a "4" next to my name. I asked the person what the 4 meant and she said it meant I got fourth place. I was shocked, but happily took my ribbon.
At the trailer, I met two nice ladies who were so impressed that I was here all by myself and that Royal and I got a ribbon at our first cross-country competition. I had a nice conversation with them and headed back to the warm-up arena. Royal could feel my nerves and was deer-leaping over the jumps, which did not help me at all. I was second on the BN course; the first person fell off. She got back on and finished, but my nerves were starting to fray. We trotted out, had a three spooky jumps and went for the water. He was hesitant, but eventually walked in. I just let him walk, figuring it was better to let him check it out instead of trying to get him to go through it fast. Then it was a big coop and a long turn to the ditch. I prepared myself for a screeching halt... and he hopped right over. I was so elated that I botched the turn to the next jump and had a refusal. Well that totally blew my confidence and we had a refusal at the next two jumps, including a sizable table. We were able to get over the 10 jump, through the water in the opposite direction, back over the coop, and refused the last jump before popping over it again. I know it was probably kind of scary to watch, and it wasn't much more fun to ride. We went back to the trailer, put all my stuff back in, Royal loaded in pretty well, and we went home. All in all, I feel like it was a success, because I learned a ton.
Here's why it made me love the Parelli Program even more:
1. Self-Sufficiency. Parelli really focuses on developing independent horses and riders. I saw a few other loners there, but most had their trainers or helpers with them. Parelli gave me the confidence to do this by myself and the tools with which to accomplish it, both mentally and physically. (Speaking of which, about 1/3 of the way through the BN course where Royal's huge jumps were twanging me off his back, I thought "I love my saddle". It kept catching me and keeping me centered, even through the huge efforts.)
2. Confidence. The fact that Royal and I could even do this is amazing, let alone that we came home with a ribbon. Remember, this is a horse I used to be too scared to ride at a walk in the arena, let alone canter over solid obstacles in a field. Also, I know my confidence has taken a hit, but I know exactly how to regain it. The next thing I have planned is the Birchbury schooling show and I know how to prepare for it.
3. Realism. I have learned how to realize my and my horse's limitations, which is why I am not planning on going to the Roebke Run event. The problem over the BN course was me. When I get nervous, I freeze and shut down. Royal was only responding to my lack of confidence when he refused and that is something I can't rush. If I took the month off and practiced everyday, we might be ready. But that's not realistic, so I'm going to put my horse and my confidence first, and aim for the Steepleview recognized event in September. You can't rush this stuff, and I don't want to go into another event unprepared.
So, all in all, a success in terms of learning and material gains.
Royal with his ribbon.